Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/129. Expression of the Genitive by Circumlocution

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§129. Expression of the Genitive by Circumlocution.

a Besides the construction of a nomen rectum dependent upon a nomen regens in the construct state (§§ 89 and 128), the connexion of two nouns may also be effected otherwise, either by simply attaching the dependent noun by means of the preposition לְ, which, according to §119r, expresses, besides other ideas, like that of belonging to,[1] or by the addition of a relative clause (אֲשֶׁר לְ, see h below).

b 1. The introduction of a genitive by לְ sometimes occurs even when the construction with the construct state would be equally possible, e.g. 1 S 1416 הַצֹּפִים לְשָׁאוּל the watchmen of Saul; ψ 3716, 2 Ch 2818 (where indeed the circumlocution makes the sense much plainer); as a rule, however, this use is restricted to the following cases:—

c (a) To prevent a nomen regens being determined by a following determinate genitive, e.g. 1 S 1618 בֵּן לְיִשַׁי a son of Jesse (בֶּן־יִשַׁי would be, according to §127a, the son of Jesse); cf. Gn 1418, 3612, 4112, Nu 1622 (27:16), 1 S 178, 2 S 1921, ψ 1225. Hence, regularly מִזְמור לְדָוִד (ψ 31, &c.) a psalm of David (properly belonging to David as the author), for which לְדָוִד of David is used alone elliptically in ψ 111, 141, &c. Such a case as לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר (ψ 241, &c.) is not to be regarded as a transposition, but מִזְמוֹר is used epexegetically for the general term omitted before לְדָוִד (as it were, a poem of David, a psalm). Moreover, the introduction of the author, poet, &c., by this Lamed auctoris is the customary idiom also in the other Semitic dialects, especially in Arabic.

d (b) When a genitive is to be made dependent on a nomen regens, which is itself composed of a nomen regens and rectum, and represents, as a compound, one united idea, e.g. Ru 23 חֶלְקַת הַשָּׁדֶה לְבֹעַז the portion of field belonging to Boaz (חֶ׳ שְׂדֵה בֹעַז would be the portion of the field of Boaz); 2 K 59 at the house-door of Elisha. This especially applies to the cases in which the compound regens represents a term in very common use, the fixed form of which cannot be altered, e.g. 1 K 1419 עַל־סֵ֫פֶר דִּבְרֵי הַיָּמִים לְמַלְכֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel; 15:23, &c.; cf. also Jos 1951.

e (c) When for any other reason the construction with the nomen regens in the construct state is inadmissible; cf. e.g. Lv 1820, where שְׁכָבְתְּךָ, on account of the suffix, cannot be used in the construct state; but Lv 1516 ff., &c., שִׁכְבַת־זֶ֫רַע; Ju 328 the Jordan fords of Moab (יַרְדֵּן as a proper name cannot be used in the construct state); Ex 205 upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hats me; וְעַל־רִבֵּעִים must be kept in the absolute state for the sake of conformity with עַל־שִּׁלֵּשִׁים, and for the same reason also לַֽאֲלָפִּים לְאֹֽהֲבַי.

f (d) After statements of number in such cases as Gn 814 בְּשִׁבְעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים יוֹם לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ on the seven and twentieth day of the month; cf. 7:11, 16:3 and frequently, or as in Hag 11 בִּשְׁנַת שְׁתַּ֫יִם לְדָֽרְיָ֫וֶשׁ in the second year of Darius; the numeral here is always one compound idea with the substantive numbered, and consequently (as in the examples under b) does not admit of being in the constr. st. with a genitive. The same naturally applies also to such examples as 1 K 318 בַּיּוֹם חַשְּׁלִישִׁי לְלִדְתִּי on the third day of my giving birth (i.e. after my giving birth). Cf. also the standing phrase בְּאֶחָד לַחֹ֫דֶשׁ on the first (day) of the month, Gn 85 and frequently.

g Rem. In cases like 2 S 32 and his firstborn was Amnon לַֽאֲחִינֹ֫עַם of Ahinoam, the genitive expressed by circumlocution with לְ is in reality dependent on a regens which is omitted (בֵּן לַֽאֲחִינֹ֫עַם a son of Ahinoam); cf. 2 S 33, 5, 1 K 1413, Am 53 (unless לְבֵית יִשְׂרָאֵל originally depended on thus spake the Lord), and the remarks on לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר under c above.

h 2. The periphrastic expression of the genitive by means of אֲשֶׁר לְ is used principally to state the possessor, e.g. Gn 299 הַצֹאן אֲשֶׁר לְאָבִ֫יהָ her father’s sheep (prop. the sheep which belonged to her father); Gn 474 and frequently. So also (according to §128a) when a genitive depends on more than one substantive, e.g. Gn 405 the butler and the baker who (belonged) to the king of Egypt (וְֹאפֵה מֶ֫לֶךְ מִצְרַ֫יִם would indicate only the baker as belonging to the king); or when a genitive (as in the examples under d above) is added to a compound, which expresses one united idea (Ru 43); or when, as a fixed term (e.g. a title), it appears always in the same form, e.g. Ct 11 שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים אֲשֶׁר לִשְׁלֹמֹה the Song of songs, of Solomon; 1 S 218, 2 S 28, 1 Ch 1110; cf. also Gn 4143.[2]

  1. Cf. the σχῆμα Κολοφώνιον in Greek, e.g. ἡ κεφαλὴ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ for τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (Bernhardy’s Syntax, p. 88). The Arab grammarians distinguish a twofold genitive, one of which may be resolved by לְ, and the other by מִן [see Wright’s Arabic Grammar, vol. ii, §75ff.]. The de of the Romance languages is a development of the latter idea; the Gascon, however, says e.g. la fille à Mr. N., laying stress upon the idea of belonging to and not that of origin, as in la fille de... of the literary language.
  2. In New Hebrew שֶׁל (derived from שֶׁלְּ = אֲשֶׁר לְ, see § 36, and cf. Ct 16, 37 שֶׁלִּי, שֶׁלִּשְׁלֹמֹה) is used like the simple relative דִּי, דְּ in Aramaic, as an independent sign of the genitive.